Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal transport ministers to meet in Thimphu

The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), Bhutan in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank is hosting the first meeting of the transport ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) on 15th June 2015 in Thimphu. The transport ministers’ meeting will be preceded by a preparatory meeting of BBIN transport secretaries, joint secretaries and senior officials on 14th June 2015. Initially proposed as a SAARC Agreement, it was not signed during the eighteenth SAARC Summit in November 2014. It was subsequently scaled down to a sub-regional level comprising four countries forming part of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) initiative.

The sub-regional draft agreement was finalized during a special meeting of the transport secretaries in February this year held at Kolkata. The same meeting also decided to hold the meeting of the transport ministers to sign the MVA. The primary objective of such an agreement is to facilitate through transport to help international trade.

The BBIN MVA is a framework agreement and it is envisaged that implementation details such as those related to customs formalities, local permits, repair of vehicles, temporary entry of vehicles, refueling facility, insurance issues, fees and charges, designation, and other operational aspects will be set out in the bilateral or perhaps trilateral agreements and protocols.

The implementation of the BBIN MVA will be guided by the yet to be established National Land Transport Facilitation Committees or their equivalent to be established in each country. At the sub-regional level, a joint BBIN Land Transport Facilitation Committee will be constituted and mandated with the responsibility to discuss and resolve issues related to the MVA. The chairman of the national level committee or a relevant member will participate in the meetings of the joint BBIN Committee.

The transport ministers meeting, among others, will: (i) discuss the proposed arrangements to implement the Agreement on cross-border movement of vehicles in the BBIN countries; and (ii) review the list of priority regional road connectivity projects in the sub-region; and (iii) finalize and sign the framework agreement on cross-border movement of vehicles in the BBIN countries.

Subsequent to the signing of the framework agreement, details of the implementation arrangements will be worked out among the countries either on bilateral or trilateral basis. The ultimate aim of the agreement is to facilitate seamless cross-border movement of vehicles with the objective of eliminating or reducing trade barriers by making the entire system efficient. It is further expected that the agreement would transform the transport corridors linking the BBIN countries.

A series of activities are planned, leading to the start of actual implementation of the BBIN MVA. The target is to complete all the processes during a period of twelve months from the date of signing the agreement and will depend on the time taken to complete other remaining internal requirements such as ratification by the respective Parliament, as may be relevant.

The Prime Minister of Bhutan will inaugurate the BBIN Transport Ministers Meeting on 15th June, 2015.

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